Saturday, September 17, 2011

Summer's Passing

That the furnace turned on for the first time in months a couple of mornings ago suggests that summer has drifted into fall.  The temperature that night dipped down to -4 degrees, a sharp change from the +34 temperature that we were baking in just a few days earlier.  I fully expect that by the end of this weekend, the painted forest will appear with spectacular hues of orange, red and yellow.

First of all, let me apologize for not writing for nearly a month and a half.  There is quite a bit to catch up on and the most logical way to do that is to rewind the clock and work our way back to the present.

When we last checked in, Heather was preparing to head south to spend some time with her mom and dad, Dylan was hanging out with his mom, and Ben was knee deep in rehearsals for his theatrical debut at interPLAY.

The 21st edition of our annual visual and performing arts festival took place at Keyano College and King Street for the first time.  It was also the first time that I had absolutely no official connection to the event (other than being a doting parent and being lovingly referred to as interPLAY’s “Godfather”).  Surprisingly, it felt wonderful not knowing anything and being able to play the unfamiliar role of a regular patron.  Having both Dylan and Ben in tow, much of my attention was focused on keeping tabs on them and making sure they kept well fed and watered.

Dylan spent much of the time seeing plays, seven in total over three days.  He was very independent and kept me updated on his whereabouts by sending me text messages.  I was proud of his interest and the many observations he made about the performances.  Dylan also had the opportunity to meet wrestling icon Chris Jericho (shown above) who was at the festival playing with his band Fozzy.

Meanwhile, Ben did 6 performances of his show, playing the character of “Woods”, sidekick to the hero of the story.  In the weeks that have passed, I’ve enjoyed listening to him describe his theatrical adventures to a number of interested adults, most recently Wood Buffalo Mayor Melissa Blake.  He is very articulate and particularly proud of his theatre camp experience.

As the sky opened up and the rains fell on the final day of the festival, we said our goodbyes and started our journey south to Edmonton and on to Hillcrest in the Crownest Pass.

The time spent with Neil, Susan, Kathryn, Michael, Julia and Uncle Lowry in the south was wonderful.  Apart from fly fishing for the first time (thanks Michael), the best moment (among many) for me was watching the gallant foursome tackle the north peak of Turtle Mountain.  Michael, Kathryn, Heather and Ben set off early one morning, driving to Blairmore to come up the backside of the infamous mountain that fell back in 1903, burying much of the community of Frank.

I pulled out the binoculars about 11 am, the approximate time that they would theoretically be near the top.  Sure enough, there were several tiny specs at the summit with several more about a half hour later.  They made it to the top, triumphant and deeply satisfied, though tired and covered in dust.

We also enjoyed a wonderful day in Waterton National Park, exploring that Banff-esque community that is a summer haven for hikers and adventure seekers.  The Prince of Wales hotel is the iconic structure of Waterton, sitting regally on the top of a plateau with a stunning view of the lake.  That the property is supposedly haunted became an afterthought, as we took it all in.

One day during our time in the Crownest, Dylan wanted to get his hair cut. So, we made our way to John’s Barber Shop in downtown Blairmore.  It took three hours from start to finish, but it was time well spent, visiting with the locals and watching the care and attention demonstrated by this artisan who has styled with scissors and shaved with a straight blade razor since 1959.  The blog post John’s Barber Shop captures the magic of this unique afternoon.

The next leg of our holiday took us through the Chief Mountain border crossing and into Big Sky Country, the rugged and wondrous state of Montana. It was a perfectly sunny day as we negotiated the twisting turning mountain pass called the Going to the Sun Road in Glacier National Park.  Open only a few months of the year, the 50-mile engineering marvel was still snowed in and closed to traffic just a month earlier.  Logan Pass can get up to 80 feet of snow over the course of a winter.  Can you imagine that?

I felt somewhat relieved as we made our way down the mountain, as it took a lot of concentration to traverse the tight curves and narrow passes. 

We stopped at the Montana Vortex and House of Mystery before completing our first day’s trip to Missoula.  Several people on Facebook had endorsed this quirky tourist trap as an essential stop. 

How many times we told the story of being in the titled house, I can’t begin to remember.  But it was the vortex pole trick that really blew my mind.

The guide had me stand up facing a pole that had a strip of Velcro running from top to bottom.  He instructed me to affix a dot in line with my eyes, which I did (just like what Ben is doing above).  Then he instructed me to go counter-clockwise around the pole.  When I returned to where I began, I was suddenly an inch or so shorter.  He then told me to go back clockwise, which I also did.  All of sudden, I was staring at my dot, back to my original height.

Heather did the same thing, but her height didn’t change one bit.  Go figure?  The guide explained that Heather was a “particle” and I was a “wave”, which is why we reacted differently in the heart of the vortex.

It was the simplest, old-school, low-stress roadside attraction that I’ve ever experienced.  I think it’s fair to say that we’d visit again in a heartbeat.

Overnight in Missoula, over the mountains to Helena, and onward we traveled to Billings, the largest city in the state.  We enjoyed an interesting dinner in a pub, the only eatery near the hotel, and had a delightful visit with a couple from Washington.  They were fascinated to hear about our healthcare system, and share horror stories of what they have to live with being in the States.  I wrote about it in the blog post titled Small Blessings.

From the hills of Billings we pierced the desolate plains and miles of empty pastureland.  We lunched that Sunday in a small roadside diner in Grass Range, enjoying unbelievably good chicken noodle soup, with noodles made from scratch.  Yummy!  

It was fascinating observing these two old-timers who came in for lunch.  They sat quietly, tables apart, not saying a word or acknowledging each other.  One was a slight man, dressed smartly, with sharp creases down his Sunday-best jeans, the other rougher, tall, with huge hands, reminiscent of President Lyndon Johnson.  Did they know each other?  Did they have history?  We’ll never know, but it was interesting to imagine.

As we crossed back into Canada, we raced three different storm cells that eventually riddled southern Saskatchewan with hail stones the size of golf balls.  It never did catch up to us as we overnighted in Swift Current before darting across the province to Kamsack.

It was so nice to spend time with mom and dad, and the rest of my family who still call Saskatchewan home.  Spending the afternoon at Madge Lake was like a trip back to my childhood, and in some ways, even beyond that, as an image of Charlie and Loraine at Ministik Beach back in the mid-1960’s is permanently planted in my mind.

We returned to the lake for a thrilling afternoon on the water and on the “big comfy couch” courtesy of Warren and Tori.  Dylan, Ben and I had a blast being towed around the bumpy lake, holding on for dear lives as we were thrown hither and thither.  It was so fun.

Some of the visit was spent talking with Warren about his amazing physical transformation.  He is in the best shape of his life thanks to an eating plan called Ideal Protein.  His ringing endorsement of its effectiveness inexplicably inspired me to start thinking about my own fitness journey.  Thought became action after I got back to work and saw my boss Cindy.

“You look absolutely fantastic,” I exclaimed.  “What have you been doing to lose weight?”

“I’ve been on something called Ideal Protein since the beginning of summer.”

My friend Angele, who works in the office adjacent to mine, had also lost a lot of weight over the summer.  I quickly found out she was also on the Ideal Protein program.

Prior to Warren sharing his wellness story, I had never heard of Ideal Protein.  After returning to work, everywhere I turned I was running into people who were either on the program now, or had been on the program previously.  It put me in mind of how Facebook entered (and took over) my life back in 2007 from out of nowhere.

Long story short, I started my Ideal Protein program on August 27th weighing in at 207 lbs.  After three weeks I have dropped 17 lbs and I’m feeling incredible.  I have more energy, I feel measurably lighter, my pants have become delightfully loose, and my suit jacket size has dropped from 44 (which has been my size for 10+ years) to 42.  Crazy!  Add to all that good news the fact that I got my hearing back the other day (thanks to Dr. Kudryk), and can probably tell that I’m in a very happy place.  You may want to read Drunk with Sound…again to get a sense of what it’s like to get your hearing back.

Home from the holidays we’ve quickly returned to familiar routines.  Heather is incredibly busy on multiple fronts, starting a yoga teacher training program, hosting a reiki workshop, and maintaining her busy schedule serving massage therapy and yoga clients.  She’s also exploring (very earnestly) the possibility of expanding her business.  I won’t say much more than that, as that is news for Heather to share when she is ready.

Dylan came home from the first day of school and said “I have something to tell you!”

My first thought was that he was going to tell us that he had a girlfriend, or some other such earth-shattering news.  My first thought was way off the mark.

“I’m running for Vice President of the student council,” he said, beaming proudly.  “Can you help me with my speech?”

A chip off the old block, Dylan is eager to jump into the world of leadership.  I’ve always been proud of him, but I was especially proud of his decision to put his name on the ballot.

Ben continues his artistic pursuits.  A gifted artist, Ben often drifts into a creative bliss, pulling ideas out of his mind and on to paper.  

I’ve rambled on and on and I sincerely apologize.  We’ve finally arrived back at the present, with me sitting in my study writing this, Dylan staying over at a friend’s place, Ben playing computer games in the other room, and Heather dashing out to run an errand.  Friday night in Fort McMurray.

For a complete pictorial tour of our summer travels, click here and enjoy.

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